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Sciyo introduces usage-based author royalties

Jelena Katic of Sciyo reveals why the company will be paying authors when their open-access monographs are downloaded

Digital technologies are changing the way scientific research is disseminated and creating new possibilities for tracking its use and evaluating its quality. Apart from ensuring quality of scholarly literature through peer review prior to publication, there are now ways of enabling post-publication quality evaluation. This especially applies to literature published under the open-access label thanks to its free online availability.

With that in mind, open-access publisher Sciyo recently launched a novel model of academic publishing. In addition to providing post-publication quality evaluation of scientific articles, we will also be rewarding the authors whose work is considered most useful by the worldwide scientific community. Under the new model, Sciyo’s monograph authors will be the first in the academic publishing to receive royalties based on the number of downloads of their work.

Just as peer review will continue to serve as a prepublication quality control mechanism, the number of downloads will be the basis of the post-publication quality-reward system. Sciyo’s new model grants the members of the scientific community the power to evaluate published academic literature by simply using it. It also allows them to reward high-quality work of their peers.

The majority of open-access publishers operate under the ‘author pays’ model to enable barrier-free access to its peer reviewed publications. Apart from subscription-free access for the interested readers, open access has been shown to provide numerous benefits for the author, such as increased readership and citation rates as well as retention of copyright after the publication.

In most cases an author’s institution covers the publication fee. However, there is still the sense that publishing under the open-access model presents a financial burden for the author, whereas subscription-based publishing doesn’t. This is mostly due to the fact that authors do not participate in the publishing costs of subscription-based journals directly, so they are not familiar with what subscriptions actually cost their institution.

Usage-based royalties are meant to provide a transition towards a ‘free-for-all’ open-access model – free for the readers as well as the publishing authors. The incentive was created for authors of Sciyo’s peer-reviewed monographs published under the ‘author pays’ model. Since Sciyo’s journals already operate on a free-for-all basis (no subscription or publishing charges), journal article authors will not be receiving royalties.

The first authors receiving royalties will be published this April, which means that the first annual payment will take place in April 2011. For every 10 downloads, 0.2 euro will be accredited to author’s account. The exceptions are amounts under 100 euro which will be deducted from the publishing fee the next time the author decides to publish with Sciyo. Given that the royalties are independent of the publication fee, they can offset or even exceed the fee when it comes to the authors of the most downloaded publications.

In order to increase the number of downloads authors will be encouraged to put additional effort into disseminating their work and using social media to increase their potential audience within the relevant scientific communities.

For the publisher there are two major benefits of this approach. Firstly, there is the obvious benefit in terms of increase in quality and number of submissions. Secondly, there is the enhanced visibility of Sciyo’s publishing platform, which will open up new possibilities for building alternative streams of revenue and allow the publisher to abolish the publication fee entirely.

Sciyo is in the process of accepting the first submissions since the model was announced. So far, the authors’ response has been mainly positive. This particularly applies to authors already familiar with open access and the ‘author pays’ model in particular. For them, royalties are a welcome incentive to work on boosting the visibility of their work and broadening their potential audience. The response is somewhat different with authors unfamiliar with open access, since there is a lack understanding of its benefits and models of financing, particularly the ‘author pays’ model.

In 2009, Sciyo reached a landmark of one million article downloads. This year the publisher plans to release over a hundred new monographs and start several new journal titles. The number of downloads is expected to grow in parallel with an increase in the number of publications and the growth of its online scientific community.

Apart from building a post-publication quality reward system, Sciyo aims to create a unique publishing experience for its authors by giving them the option to highlight their work with multimedia extensions free of charge, providing them with live author support throughout the process and creating an online community where they can connect and communicate with their colleagues. These efforts are about building academic publishing focused around authors and empowering the scientific community in assessing the quality of academic literature.

Jelena Katic is communications director of Sciyo, an open-access publisher founded in Austria but with its headquarters in Croatia

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